The Journal, University of Illinois at Springfield Weekly Campus Newspaper

Lost and Found: Students Abroad

October 7, 2009
By Julian Borjas
Charles Darwin University

Julian Borjas

Photo submitted by Julian Borjas

Borjas shows off a different kind of souvenir in Darwin, Australia.

Whenever you're in a new place for long you start to get home sick. It probably won't be that long of a spell, but it’s inevitable. But I've always been pretty fortunate to have a good group of friends around. Really, I'm having the time of my life, experiencing a whole new continent here in Darwin, Australia. I have nothing to complain about. Except maybe my broken arm.

I'm a pretty active guy, so when I get in the doldrums I have to get out and do something. All my classes here are really interesting (even topics I've thought about before take on a new dimension under a different international context) so I spend a lot of time reading for class and doing some extracurricular study, just trying to squeeze every bit of experience out of being in a new place.

But after sitting in my room for a bit, I'm ready to burn off some energy. There's a beach five minutes from campus. It’s a great place to run and then cool off with a nice swim. Darwin has a tropical climate, so having the ocean nearby is a life saver.

And being on an international campus means there is always a few people to hang out with, which is an experience in itself. I have running buddies from South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Germany and even Canada. Even going for a run is a cultural experience.

My friend from South Africa introduced me to "free running" also known as parkour. Parkour is sprinting through the urban landscape, making straight lines and climbing up buildings, rappelling down ramps and on walls. Just type “parkour” into a YouTube search bar and you'll see why I just had to try.

Training for a parkour run is really good exercise too. There's several moves you have to master before you can go on an actual run. But I was staying in shape, meeting new people, experiencing new culture. Plus, some of the exercises involve running up walls and jumping over tables, so even the prep work looked pretty tight.

But I wanted the real thing, scaling buildings, jumping from impossible heights; its like playing Donkey Kong or Super Mario Bros., you have strategize and look for spots that get you to your next move. It’s really a great metaphor; you use your mind and push yourself to make sure no obstacles get in your way.

Anyway, I was eager for my first run. I went camping recently; we hiked, scaled the side of a huge gorge, jumped of a few rock faces into a pool churned by an immense waterfall. At this point of my OZ (short for Australia) experience, I was pretty sure I was invincible.

So imagine my surprise when, on my very first run, I misplaced my grip and fell almost two stories. Despite the impact I have never been so focused and clear in mind after my fall. I had one thought, one goal: GET TO THE HOSPITAL. I was running with my new friends so they quickly got me to a car and I was happily sedated and prepped for surgery in about 30 minutes.

I remember a little bit of pain in the ER (the Aussies call it ED), but in no time I was in "theater" or the operating room, counting backwards from 100. I only got to 90. In what seemed like seconds later, I woke up. I was in a bright white room, my hand was fixed and I was in a great mood. Even now, my friends, who waited for me through the surgery, say I was happy, funny and oddly, given the situation, in control.

    You see, I have hemophilia. It’s a blood disorder that prevents me from clotting normally. Its not usually a big deal, just a concern for big injuries, breaking a bone for instance. But for my parents, it was always a major worry. I wasn't allowed to play sports, they didn't even like for me to rough house with other kids. 

So, when I got old enough I made a decision: I have to go out and live life even if it means a few bumps and bruises along the way. I've never broken a bone or had a stitch (until now that is, I did a heck of a job, broke it in two places and got the much anticipated compound fracture). I'm a pretty active guy; at home I run, mountain bike and row. So the parkour attempt wasn't out of character, just me trying to experience life and a new place.
"Parkour is a spirit or philosophy that incorporates a method of moving within your environment and approaching obstacles of any kind, be they physical or mental,” as defined by the Australian Parkour Association.

And through it all, I still don't regret it. I mean, I'll never do parkour again, that's for sure. But I was literally on the other side of the world and when I fell, in the very real and even in the metaphorical sense, my friends were there for me, helped me back up and I keep going. My family was really worried but I was able to handle myself. I had to deal with insurance companies and the like. But by and large, everyone was really helpful and caring.

I'm doing heaps better. Just three weeks out from surgery and I just got back from another camping trip. I got to swim (which was probably really good exercise for the arm) and hang out with my new friends. The physical therapist is really surprised with my progress. They assure me that I'll be fine within four to six weeks from the surgery, just in time to go home all fixed and better before I see the 'rents.